Last Friday, I was voice-chatting with a friend who is in India. I told her I was cooking. “Didn’t you go to college today?” she asked.
“Well, school is closed these days…” I started, but she interrupted me. “School? Don’t tell me you have gone back to school!”
“Er… actually I have. Here in the USA undergraduate students go to college, but graduate students go to school.” I hastily explained.
“Undergraduates? You mean school students? They go to college? And didn’t you finish your graduation in Kolkata? I thought you were doing post graduation there!”
This was getting messier than I had anticipated.
“No, actually what we call graduation in India is known as under-graduation here. So the engineering I did in India is under-graduation here. The Ph.D. that I am doing is known as post-graduation in India but here it is graduation. The engineering students here come to college to do their…”
Before I had a chance to finish, she had started again.
“Ah now I get it! The engineering students go to college, just like in India. But how come they don’t let you do Ph.D. in the same college?”
“Of course they do. I study in the same college, and in fact I teach those engineering students.” I said proudly.
“But you just said you don’t go to college but go to school!” she sounded exasperated.
“Er… we go to the same college, but we grad students call it school.”
“I see. So after passing college you get an urge to go back to school and since the schools won’t take you back, you start calling your college school?”
I would have liked to say that it was not quite so, but unfortunately I didn’t have a better way to explain it. So I grudgingly agreed.
“So your school is closed for summer vacations? For how long?” She never ran out of questions.
“Mid-May to August. It’s more than three months.” I wanted to make her jealous.
“Then how come you were in lab yesterday?” There was suspicion in her voice.
“Ph.D. students have no holidays, you know.” I tried to sound smug. “We have to go to lab even during the vacations. However, since school is closed on Fridays during summer, I thought of staying home.”
“Doesn’t vacation mean school is closed on all the days of the week?” she asked.
“Ah yes, that is the regular school. However, the university offices and the summer classes, if any, are open only four days a week.”
“I see. You Ph.D. students go to lab only on the days when the university offices are open. Basically you are following the work schedule of government employees. So you have a long weekend every weekend then.”
“Yes, and this one is even longer!” I said happily. “Monday is Memorial Day and practically everyone in the US is going somewhere. I have also decided to take off on Monday even if I stay at home.”
“You seem to be following the holiday schedules of everybody around you, taking holidays within holidays, while lamenting about working more than everybody else. Am I right?”
Again, I would have liked to say she was simplifying things too much, but I couldn’t find a flaw in her explanation.
“Y-es. Quite right.” I conceded. “That’s why I left the real world job and came here to do a Ph.D.”